Fredonia rolls

Whitfield’s interception a ‘game changer’ in 38-13 win

Fredonia’s Makayla Tabone runs for yardage while being chased by a number of Lackawanna defenders during Tuesday’s Section VI Division 2B flag football quarterfinal at the Orange Bowl in Fredonia. OBSERVER Photo by Ashleigh Brown

The Fredonia girls flag football team earned the top seed in the Section VI Division 2B playoffs.

After an opening-drive touchdown from Lackawanna, the ‘Billies sure played like the top seed en route to a 38-13 quarterfinal playoff victory at the Orange Bowl on Tuesday.

“That’s the game. This is a team that won the division last year. They’re a well-coached team in Lackawanna,” Fredonia head coach Nick Bertrando said. “We knew we were going to have our hands full tonight and, to be honest with you, Tim (Kachelmeyer) and I were very proud of how we responded to that. Easily in a playoff game you’ve got the nervous jitters and there’s an increased intensity. For those girls to settle themselves down after that first drive, lock in on both sides of the ball, that’s what we were most proud of tonight.”

The Steelers seized the early lead going through the air against the Fredonia defense and once the ‘Billies got the ball they showed they could do it even better.

Fredonia’s first drive ended quickly as a 23-yard pass from Ella Koopman to Keiliany Diaz set up a 20-yard touchdown pass to Ashlynn Delcamp. Then Koopman kept the ball on the conversion to take the lead 7-6 and never looked back.

Fredonia’s Ella Koopman threw for 157 yards and three touchdowns Tuesday at the Orange Bowl in Fredonia. OBSERVER Photo by Ashleigh Brown

“That’s one of the things we’ve worked on this season making sure we’re multidimensional,” Bertrando said about his team. “Not just multidimensional from a play standpoint on the offensive side of the ball, but also from the personnel that we have. We feel that we’ve got a bunch of different people that we can place on the field in different positions and get them the ball in advantageous situations that they can go out there and do their thing and be athletes.”

Then, on the following drive, the Fredonia aerial attack took the spotlight again, this time with Delcamp’s 28-yard reception setting up a 3-yard touchdown catch by Diaz. Delcamp converted to increase the lead to 14-6.

A pair of quick scores put the pressure on Lackawanna and the Steelers looked to the air again to get points on the board, but this time Brianna Whitfield was ready. The quick pass from Lackawanna’s Jazzmyne Garcia was read by Whitfield who jumped the route and intercepted the ball and turned on the jets for a pick-six that gave Fredonia a 20-6 lead.

“I really think that Bri’s pick-6 was a big time game changer,” Bertrando stated. “At that point, we had just scored two consecutive drives on offense, the pendulum was kind of swinging back in our favor and Bri just made a great read on that ball. She took it straight to the house and turned on the afterburners. It was nice because it kind of propelled that momentum that we had going at the time and continued to move in that direction.”

Francesca Pucci ran in a 7-yard touchdown to extend the Fredonia lead to 26-6 at halftime.

Fredonia's Keiliany Diaz steps in for a touchdown during Tuesday's Section VI Division 2B quarterfinal playoff game against Lackawanna at the Orange Bowl in Fredonia. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

After a turnover on downs to start the second half, Lackawanna finally halted the Fredonia offense and forced a punt. The Steelers then followed up with a great second drive, getting the ball to its best receiver, Julia Kormanec.

Kormanec hauled in a big catch from Garcia to put the Steelers in good field position. Then Garcia hit Diarah Dilbert for the touchdown that made it a 26-13 game with the conversion to Dilbert.

Just when it looked like Lackawanna might be getting some momentum, Fredonia put the ball in the hands of Section VI’s leading rusher and again she came up big.

On the first play of Fredonia’s next drive, Pucci broke out to the left and spun out of two tackles before hitting the open field on her way to a 60-yard touchdown to silence the Steelers.

“Against a good quality team, teams are going to score, it’s just how we respond back to it,” Bertrando stated. “We’ve got some really great personnel and Franc got to the outside edge on that one and 60 yards later she’s in the back of the end zone. That’s a testament not only to her, but to our team. For her to be able to break something like that we have to execute blocks, we have to execute a bunch of different things, and then at the end Francesca turned on that speed that enabled her to be the leading rusher in all of Section VI for the regular season and we’re fortunate to have her on our side.”

Fredonia's Brianna Whitfield is followed into the end zone by teammate Lily Runkel after returning an interception for a touchdown in Tuesday's quarterfinal playoff game against Lackawanna at the Orange Bowl in Fredonia. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

Fredonia tacked on another touchdown from Koopman to Delcamp for 25 yards and Paige Elliott reeled in a second Fredonia interception as the ‘Billies cruised to the 38-13 victory.

“I mentioned to the girls, this is the first home playoff flag football game ever,” Bertrando added. “This is our first Section VI playoff win; last year we were in the CCAA playoffs. I’m excited for them, they’re an amazing group of young women who have really dedicated themselves to this season. It’s fun to be around them and we’re lucky to have another day with them.”

Koopman finished 8 of 17 for 157 yards through the air and three passing touchdowns. Diaz finished with 53 yards receiving and the score, while Delcamp caught the pair of touchdowns and ended with a total of 83 yards.

Pucci led the rushing attack with 82 yards which was highlighted by the big 60-yard score.

Defensively, Elizabeth Morris collected six sacks, Lily Runkel added two sacks, Gracie Domenico had seven flag pulls, Whitfield had six flag pulls along with the pick-6 and Elliott had three flag pulls to go along with her interception.

Fredonia will host either No. 4 Buffalo Academy of Science or No. 5 Depew on Thursday at the Orange Bowl at 7 p.m.


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